- New Mexico Senate considers $200 million in business relief
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A bill is headed toward a state Senate vote that would provide $200 million from the state general fund to thousands of businesses that experienced income declines in 2020. Scheduled for a crucial vote Thursday, the bill would provide individual grants of up to $100,000 without repayment to businesses for the reimbursement of rent, lease or mortgage obligations. The proposal from Democratic House Speaker Brian Egolf and allied state Rep. Christine Chandler of Los Alamos stands among a long list of bills aimed at reviving the local economy as New Mexico emerges from the pandemic. New Mexico's current emergency health order places restrictions on most businesses and limits public gatherings.
- 2021 Spaceport America Cup to be virtual event in New Mexico
SIERRA COUNTY, N.M. (AP) — Spaceport America and partner Experimental Sounding Rocket Association say this year's Spaceport America Cup will be held as a virtual event on June 18-20. It was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers say this year's event will be an online competition and technical conference with student teams from across the globe completing to win awards. One team will be selected as the overall 2021 Virtual Spaceport America Cup winner. In addition, teams will participate in interactive poster session reviews, hear from special guest speakers, and participate in forums on a variety of topics. The Spaceport America Cup is one of the largest intercollegiate rocketry engineering contests and has been held in New Mexico since 2017.
- Navajo Nation reports 27 new COVID-19 cases, 2 more deaths
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — Navajo Nation officials reported 27 new confirmed COVID-19 cases Wednesday with two additional deaths. The latest numbers bring the total number of cases on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to 29,336 since the pandemic began. There have been 1,114 reported deaths that were related to COVID-19. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that even those who have been fully vaccinated need to continue taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus. The tribe has a nightly curfew in place from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. to limit the spread of the virus.
- New Mexico ramps up vaccine distribution, awaits supplies
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Top health officials in New Mexico say the state has boosted the number of vaccines given daily by more than 20% over the past two weeks. State Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said Wednesday during a briefing that New Mexico is ranked third in the nation for distribution, having administered nearly all the doses it gets every week. So far, more than 450,000 shots have been given. About 7% of New Mexicans are fully vaccinated with their first and second shots. That's double the figure from two weeks ago. Collins said New Mexico's allocation from the federal government is expected to increase next week to more than 72,500 doses.
- New Mexico foresees more state income from oil in short run
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A rebound in oil and natural gas prices is changing the outlook for state government finances in New Mexico as the Legislature drafts a spending plan for the coming fiscal year. A team of economists from three state agencies and the Legislature said Wednesday that state government income is likely to increase by $339 million during the fiscal year that begins July 1 to a total of $7.55 billion. State government income would exceed current annual spending obligations by 2.3% if the new estimate holds true. Senate Finance Committee Chairman George Muñoz of Gallup said the state could be in a precarious financial situation when federal relief ends.
- Groups ask Biden for wider environmental review of nuke work
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Watchdog groups want the Biden administration to reconsider a decision by a U.S. agency not to conduct a more extensive environmental review related to production of the plutonium cores used in the nation's nuclear arsenal. The renewed request comes as federal installations in New Mexico and South Carolina face a deadline of making 80 cores per year by 2030. Jobs and billions of dollars in government spending are at stake. The National Nuclear Security Administration said it has no plans to revisit the environmental review. But the agency has confirmed that its approach to plutonium core production is among the programs under review as the new administration takes over.
- Political violence inspires New Mexico bill
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — High-profile cases of political violence are inspiring a group of lawmakers to protect public officials from threats. New Mexico State Senators are advancing a bill that would further prohibit threatening public officials or directly interfering with their work. In discussing the bill, Sen. Joseph Cervantes referenced the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. capitol, in which rioters said they wanted to hang the vice president. The proposed law may overlap with existing criminal statutes. A man who threatened violence against New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has been sentenced to jail. Obstruction of public officials is already a misdemeanor.
- Native Americans embrace vaccine, virus containment measures
CHEROKEE, N.C. (AP) — Native Americans are bucking a trend of minority populations who harbor doubts about the coronavirus vaccines. Tribes across the nation are embracing inoculations, and also have been among the first in the country to adopt coronavirus containment measures. There are two possible explanations: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Native Americans and Alaskan Natives are four times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19. And community before self has long been a core principle in Native American culture. Tribal leaders and health care providers say it is about preserving a fragile heritage that has been under threat for centuries.